Art and missions: create endless possibilities

Art is a way of communication that transcends language and cultural barriers. It is vital to learning about human experiences, beliefs, and worldviews. Indeed, artists have a unique ability to convey ineffable emotions and feelings through artistic expressions. They can express cultural trends and changes in society through their work.  

The calling of artists for incredible work

During the Israelites’ journey to the promised land, God called craftsmen Bezalel and Oholiab by name and filled them with the Spirit to build the tabernacle where God could dwell among his people. They used their abilities, intelligence, and skills to devise artistic designs and inspire others to do the same. Great leaders like Moses and other people with artistic gifts worked together with them to achieve their common goal (Exodus 31-39).

The use of art in missions

As we go out and start Christian communities in every place in the world, we need to help people develop a new way of Christian expression that preserves their languages and traditions and, at the same time, makes sense to their cultural context. Too often, people come in assuming from an outsider’s perspective that they understand the dynamics of a community and end up drawing wrong conclusions. In every culture and context, people have already got everything they need in artistic expression for their witness and worship. God can enable artistic and creative people to decode and depict cultures not their own and create things relevant to local people.

The intersection of the gospel and art

Thus, understanding our different cultural lenses and how we perceive others who are very different from ourselves is absolutely crucial. Local arts give us an insider’s perspective that reveals how people view themselves and their community on a cultural and spiritual level. With the goal of local faith communities, we can find the intersecting points between the gospel and their everyday lives by using the art forms they recognize. God has enabled artistic and creative people with this unique way to handle intercultural issues and build bridges across cultures.

The sending of artists to the nations

Art has tremendous strength because it can communicate peacefully and also boldly. It creates a safe and fun space to stimulate conversations and connect people. Whether it be visual arts, music, dance, drama, or other forms, art can naturally create communities and develop ministries led by local people. Today, more and more missions organizations are realizing endless possibilities of using arts to reach those with the least opportunities to hear of Jesus. I was delighted to meet new friends through the “Arts Project Across Cultures” meeting hosted by OMF International’s Serve Asia team and WEC’s Arts Release Singapore, and I look forward to seeing God’s work through us. He has already been sending artists, designers, musicians, dancers, performers, and other artistic and creative people to the nations. Are you one of them? Bezalel and Oholiab accomplished great things for God by using their artistic gifts and responding in obedience. Are you the same? 

Next steps

Tobey
OMF (US)

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